Whatsoever Stories

Heartbeat of a story

What exactly is it that makes a piece of script a story rather than merely a history or a narrative? Whether the work is true or fictional, what is it that causes the facts of this-is-what-happened-and-who-did-it come to life in a way that will engage and inspire a reader? If you dig down inside, what will you discover at the heart?

Two components combine at the core to bring life to a piece of prose. Each is vitally important, fueling and being fueled by the other. They are its lifeblood, the heart from which every other detail is nourished. Take away either, and a story will die.

The first component: Conflict. The second: Character.
Conflict: Something is wrong, and those involved are struggling to make it right.
Character: In the midst of the struggle are one or more central figures with whom the reader will sympathize.

Events engage the reader at the mental level; people engage the reader at the emotional level. Each on its own can survive in a narrative, but when yoked together, the two form a powerful team. When someone about whom the reader cares is involved in a problem that requires a resolution, that is a story. Enmesh a sympathetic character in a challenging conflict, and your narrative will come to life.